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President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Coyne at Dublin Castle. Photo by: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

President of Ireland Michael D Higgin's inauguration speech - full text

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President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Coyne at Dublin Castle. Photo by: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

In promoting inclusion and creativity, I will be inviting all citizens, of all ages, to make their own imaginative and practical contribution to the shaping of our shared future.

Active citizenship requires the will and the opportunity to participate at every level and in every way - to be the arrow; not the target.

Next year Bunreacht na hÉireann is 75 years old and a Constitutional Convention is planned by Government. As President, I encourage all citizens, of all ages, at home and abroad to take the opportunity of engaging with this important review as an opportunity to reflect on where we have come from and on how we might see ourselves into the future.

During my Presidency, I also intend to hold a number of Presidency Seminars which may reflect and explore themes important to our shared life yet separate and wider than legislative demand, themes such as the restoration of trust in our institutions, the ethical connection between our economy and society, the future of a Europe built on peace, social solidarity and sustainability.

The first of these seminars will focus on being young in Ireland. It will address issues of participation, education, employment, emigration and mental health. I hope also that the seminars during the next seven years might encompass consideration of global issues, stressing the importance of the ethical connection between politics, economy, development and society.

In preparing for my Presidency, I recognise that our long struggle for freedom has produced a people who believe in the right of the individual mind to see the world in its own way and indeed that individual innovation and independence of mind has given Ireland many distinguished contributors in culture and science, often insufficiently celebrated.

However, in more recent years, we saw the rise of a different kind of individualism - closer to an egotism based on purely material considerations - that tended to value the worth of a person in terms of the accumulation of wealth rather then their fundamental dignity. That was our loss, the source in part, of our present difficulties. Now it is time to turn to an older wisdom that, while respecting material comfort and security as a basic right of all, also recognises that many of the most valuable things in life cannot be measured.

Our successes after all in the eyes of so many in the world have been in the cultural and spiritual areas - in our humanitarian, peace-building and human rights work - in our literature, art, drama and song - and in how that drama and song have helped us cope with adversity, soothed the very pain which they describe so well, and opened the space for new possibilities.

Our arts celebrate the people talking, singing, dancing and ultimately communing with each other. This is what James Connolly meant when he said that: "Ireland without her people means nothing to me".

onnolly took pride in the past but, of course, felt that those who excessively worshipped that past were sometimes seeking to escape from the struggle and challenge of the present. He believed that Ireland was a work in progress, a country still to be fully imagined and invented - and that the future was exhilarating precisely in the sense that it was not fully knowable, measurable.

The demands and the rewards of building a real and inclusive Republic in its fullest sense remains as a challenge for us all, but it is one we should embrace together.

A decade of commemorations lies ahead - a decade that will require us to honestly explore and reflect on key episodes in our modern history as a nation; that will require us to draw on the ethics and politics of memory in such a way as will enable us not only to be sensitive to differing and incomplete versions of that history, but also to remain open to the making of reconciliation or to the acceptance of different versions of aspects and events of memory if required.

A common shared future built on the spirit of co-operation, the collective will and real participation in every aspect of the public world is achievable and I believe we can achieve it together. In our rich heritage some of our richest moments have been those that turned towards the future and a sense of what might be possible. It is that which brought us to independence. It is that which has enabled us to overcome adversity and it is that which will enable us to transcend our present difficulties and celebrate the real Republic which is ours for the making.

Every age, after all, must have its own Aisling and dream of a better, kinder, happier, shared world.
Ní díomas ach dóchas a bheidh ag teastáil uainn ins na blianta dúshlánacha atá amach romhainn. Dóchas as ár n-oighreacht shaibhir, as ár ndúchas iolrach; dóchas as ár n-acmhainn samhlaíochta agus cruthaíochta; as an daonnacht choiteann a fáisceadh as stair chasta ár muintire i ngach cúinne d'Éirinn.

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